After a lifetime of working in Britain, paying taxes and mandatory National Insurance contributions, many pensioners wish to spend their retirement overseas, often joining family, or returning to their country of origin. On the face of it this is a fair wish for those who have contributed to the economy for so long.
However, many of these pensioners are prevented from moving and are forced to face a lonely old age away from their loved ones because of a cruel and discriminatory policy which is being perpetrated by the British Government. The International Consortium of British Pensioners is working to have this policy revoked.
Currently, the Government freezes the state pensions of British pensioners living in certain countries, particularly the Commonwealth countries of Australia, New Zealand and, Canada, at the rate it is when they first draw it in a frozen country. British pensioners living in other countries, like the USA or Turkey or the Philippines receive fully indexed pensions along with their counterparts in Europe.
Many of the half million are over ninety years old and are now struggling to survive on their diminished pension because of this policy; some receive less than £10 a week when they should be receiving the basic pension of £110 a week. Looking at the figures it is hard to see a way in which this can be classed as fair treatment.
I am a former Army Major having served Great Britain in the Royal Artillery for 15 years. I subsequently chose to move to Ottawa, Canada to work in 1984 and I have lived there for the 29 years, 15 of which as a pensioner with a frozen state pension.
How can this possibly be fair? Why should someone who retired to the USA receive more than me, who retired to Canada, just a few miles over the border, or one of the 100 other nations where pensions are frozen? It is completely illogical and unfair. The current basic UK pension is £110.15 but a 90-year-old veteran who moved to Canada to be with family on retirement is still receiving only £41 per week, losing almost two thirds of his rightful pension.
Pensioners who chose to move overseas each save the Government over £3,000 each year by not using the NHS and by not taking up the social benefits applicable to pensioners living in Britain. This is a figure often overlooked as the Government chooses to simply focus the cost of unfreezing, which totals a tiny 0.7% of the overall pensions budget, and not in the ways that the British economy would benefit if retirement overseas were encouraged.
This blatant discrimination has gone on for far too long; it is wrong and it is now time for the Government to remove this anomaly and give thousands of pensioners worldwide the opportunity to live in dignity, with the pension income for which they have paid and which is currently being denied to them.
So many of us have done our best to support Britain, all we ask is that they now support us in our retirement.